Best Practices for Online Reputation Management
Here are some steps to take when false complaints are posted about your brand.
- Address the issue directly. Post your side of the story on an asset you own i f you can. There are two reasons for this:
- Adding to the complaints or negative reports only strengthens them by adding content.
- You have full control over your assets and what is said. If you later find that you were mistaken or need to update information you are free to revise the content as needed.
- Some of the complaint sites will allow you to contact them directly or have a process for disputing the complaint. Send emails and file disputes directly with the site. Chances are the poster is using a fake name and possibly a throwaway email address. Not all of the sites will take down complaints even when proven false, but a few will. Be sure to document your attempts to go through the channels provided by each site. The sites do not have to take anything down due to their CDA 230 protection. However, there are decent ethical sites out there who publish and enforce Terms of Service.
- If the site will not take down the false complaint and it is searchable in the search engines, you may want to leave a rebuttal.
- Keep the rebuttal short. Say exactly what you need to say, then leave it alone. If the attacker responds to the rebuttal do not engage with them as this will continue to add to the content and strengthen the result. Your side is already out there and others will see your response.
- As tempting as it might be when they come back and slander you some more do not respond. Do not feed the trolls.
- Create positive content, such as branded microsites and social media profiles with a specific purpose. Creating positive content will push the negative results out of the top ten. These assets should not just be clutter, but provide real information that is useful and deserves to rank for your brand name.
- Most companies already have assets they can use to clear up the results. They usually just need to be optimized and published on the web. Images, videos, podcast, press releases, and articles are just a few positive assets that could help clear up those false reports and can be both fun and useful for your customers.
- You can also create new press releases and articles for upcoming engagements or events or relevant news about your business.
- Encourage actual customers to leave real reviews about your company to mitigate the false complaints. Most of the time happy customers don’t realize that they can give their feedback or do not take the time to post reviews. Give incentives for customers to review your products and services. Having reviews on your website can actually increase the likelihood of conversion.
- Be careful about getting lawyers involved. Attorneys can be very expensive and can’t always take much action. An attorney’s letter could end up getting posted online by the receiver and the attorney may end up another target in the attack. If there is a clear party posting false reports or if there has been a copyright infringement, you may want to consider seeking legal help, but proceed with caution.
- If there is an actual copyright infringement you can file a DMCA with Google to have the page removed or filtered in the results.
- Keep clear documentation throughout the process. If there ends up being legal action you can take, you will want to make sure you have all the correct documentation.
- Take screen shots of the complaints and search engine results
- Keep all emails and correspondence with the site and attackers
- Gather any other supporting documents that help to prove the allegations are false
- If there is any fraudulent activity, file a report with the FBI immediately.
- Immediately report any threats of violence to the proper authorities.
- DO NOT engage with online reputation managment services who send you unsolicited e-mails when the report is published on a complaint site. These companies are breaking the law by sending you the e-mail in the first place. Why would you even consider working with a company who wants to start their engagement with you in this manner?
If, after taking all these steps, you still need the help of an online reputation management agency, be aware that there are guidelines you should follow.